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Alexander 4444

Lou Costello destroying the phone book in the Alexander 4444 routine

The payphone sketch – Alexander 4444

The payphone sketch, aka Alexander 4444, an old burlesque comedy sketch. From The Abbott and Costello Show episode, Hungry. Bud Abbott wants Lou Costell to call the Fields Employment Agency, to find a job. After Lou clownishly damages the phone book, he calls the operator. And she immediately hangs up on him!

This quickly turns into the Alexander 4444 routine. Every time Lou tries to use the payphone to call the phone number, the number is busy. Anybody else’s phone call goes through without any issue, of course. Long distance to Australia, Brazil, Italy, Pennsylvania.

Telephone operator in the payphone sketch - Alexander 4444

For example one man comes to call Australia, to see how somebody’s kangaroo business is doing? Everything’s hopping! Lou tries to call Alexander 4444 … still busy.

Another person calls Brazil, to see how the coffee business is? A slow grind. Of course, when Lou tries to call Alexander 4444 …. still busy!

When an Italian singer stops in to call Italy and talk to her mentor in the old country, it’s no problem. Lou, in fact, sings along with her — clownishly. But when he tries to call Alexander 4444 — it’s still busy!

“Alexander 4444” is perpetually busy, until the telephone operator adds them up to “Oh, Alexander 16!”

Finally, as Lou is frustrated and screaming into the phone, the telephone operator asks a question the the audience doesn’t hear. He replies, “I’m as dry as can be!” So, the phone squirts him! Lou borrows a seltzer bottle from a passerby, and returns the favor, soaking the operator!

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